THE JOURNAL FOR THE SOCIETY OF GARDEN DESIGNERS

Project: The Sackler Gallery Garden

View through glass doors, Salvia nemorosa 'Caradonna', Nepeta racemosa 'Walker's Low', Gaura lindheimeri, eryngium and Cornus controversa 'Variegata' in powder-coated steel raised bed. Photo: Marianne Majerus


Arabella Lennox Boyd MSGD describes how she created a garden for the extension of the Serpentine Sackler Gallery


The brief for the new garden at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery in Kensington Gardens, London, was the building by the late Zaha Hadid. I wanted to complement the shapes and not to go against the strong architecture. I had to make it interesting and different.

I had one meeting with Zaha Hadid – I was quite nervous but it went very well. I think she was worried I was going to fill the space with daisies! After that I liaised with her team.

The building was up by the time I started the planting, but the site was quite barren. It was an awkward shape – as long as 20m in places, 2m in others. I had the idea of a ‘swoop’ of box, as the ground slopes down to the front of the building. I was going to do a stepped effect, but instead the plants go down from 450mm high to 250mm.

There are also bands of Pennisetum ‘Fairy Tails’ and Narcissus ‘Toto’. There are two magnolias at the entrance and pyramids of yew: I didn’t want it to look too garden-y at the front. I added to the existing yew hedge and lowered it so the building could be viewed from the park.


Clipped stepped Laurus nobilis, perennials and grasses in powder-coated steel raised bed. Photo: Marianne Majerus


The area to the north west of the building is a curved, steel raised bed that echoes the shape of the building. Everyone was sitting on it, so I included lots of grasses – you don’t want to sit on them, as they look delicate and big. They also cover the steel edge. They include Panicum virgatum ‘Shenandoah’, Stipa calamagrostis and Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’, and perennials including Aster ‘Little Carlow’ and A. laevis ‘Calliope’.

I hid an ugly fence concealing the working area of the Parks Department with Trachelospermum jasminoides, which gives off a lovely jasmine scent. I also covered a wall with Rosa banksiae ‘Lutea’, which does so well in London.

To the north east of the building is a woodland garden. The area was full of overgrown shrubs, which were cleared with permission from the Parks Department. An existing sweet chestnut turned out to be a real attraction, as the trunk is beautiful. The planting here now includes Cornus controversa ‘Variegata’, Hydrangea aspera ‘Villosa Group’ and Anthericum liliago ‘Major’.

I screened the Parks Department car park with a hedge of Viburnum tinus ‘Eve Price’. I wanted the garden to look good in all seasons, with scent, colour and architectural form. I’m keen on shrubs and have used lots of them, many in blocks. We also planted thousands of bulbs and have used plants that don’t need staking and are not invasive.

The garden is perfectly suited to the building, and I’m very pleased with it.